I watch Button Poetry videos on YouTube because that’s as close to my city as I fear they’ll ever get. I watch people pour out their hearts and their secrets and the intimacy of their lives on a stage in front of people they don’t know, have never met, may never see again, and I am moved on a level that is deeper than superficial appreciation of an art form.
I watch Button Poetry videos on YouTube and sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get really angry—not at the readers, but at the material. I get angry that there’s a problem in the first place. I get angry that so many of my peers are assholes who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions or their beliefs, or accept the fact that their peers are assholes who create problems and instill fear in the hearts of others.
Last Friday, a boy in California murdered six people because he was angry that he wasn’t getting sexed by the pretty women in the sorority on his college campus even though he was convinced that he was everything a man should be, that he deserved their sexual attentions more than did the men who were actually receiving them. Because what kind of slut only has sex with the men she actually wants it from? What kind of slut tells a boy she doesn’t know “No, I don’t want to have sex with you”—whether she’s in a relationship or not? I mean, let’s be serious, here: it was totally their fault for not letting him wet his dick in their bodies, right?
Wrong on so goddamned many levels it would take too long to list them, but every single one of them boils down to the idea that women are not on this planet to lie down and let men fuck us. My body is not moving down the street for your viewing pleasure; my cleavage is not on display for your hands to ooze into and my skirt is not here for you to shove your camera into in hopes that my vagina will be visible.
This Rogers guy frequented forums on which men congregated and bashed feminists and objectified women, supported the idea that to be the ultimate Alpha Male you have to be violent and dominating. Forums like 4chan, where boards like /b/ are filled with threads of men sexually assaulting and violating sleeping or drunk women, fucking them without permission, putting their penises into mouths that didn’t say yes, ejaculating on faces and breasts and vaginas that were not offered for the activity. /b/ is filled with threads of men sympathizing with Rogers and further bashing feminism, where William Fucking Wheaton has white knighted the #YesAllMen hashtag to sympathize with men who feel that they are victimized by feminism, that they are being crushed under the boot of the march toward equal rights, as if having to ask women for permission is a punishment. /b/ is a cesspool in which my boyfriend likes to wander, examine scenery, have thoughts on comments, comment on thoughts–because here and there are harmless threads that actually provide valid amusement. /b/ is a horrible, awful place in which naked photos of women are shared like germs in daycares because she dumped the poster, because she cheated, because he felt that she had done him wrong. Men hiding behind computer screens dump photos in threads upon threads for the sake of someone else’s fap folder taking precedence over the sanctity of a body OP once worshipped.
And it makes me angry. It makes me angry and uncomfortable and frankly, vaguely frightened. I know that I am safe. I know that my boyfriend will never hurt me, and I know that I have the skills to take care of myself in the event of a sketchy situation. But that doesn’t mean that I am not officially half-terrified of house parties. That doesn’t mean that I am not infuriated that I have to be chaperoned on my trip to Wal-Mart at 3 in the morning for a new box of tampons because some guy might kidnap me from the parking lot just for the sake of achieving orgasm in a body that he doesn’t have to make say yes. It doesn’t mean that I am not fed up with guys who complain about being in the “Friend Zone” as if being a nice guy should automatically mean that I am obligated to fuck you. And it sure as hell does not mean that I am not ready to throatpunch the next guy who tells me that feminism has run its course, that men and women are already equal, and that people who complain about misogyny need to calm the fuck down.
I do not resort to violence. I have never bitchslapped a soul, nor have I ever punched somebody in the face. I do not believe in violence because I believe that there is a better way to solve problems. I believe that words have more power than any physical violence could. You can beat me until I am in the hospital for months, in need of reconstructive surgery and physical therapy for years, but you cannot beat me until I believe that my boyfriend’s gay mom will go to hell simply because she loves another woman. You cannot beat me until I believe that I am worth less than my boyfriend simply because I was born with a vagina, and you certainly cannot beat me until I budge on my stance on consent. And I don’t care what anyone says, men can be raped just as easily as women can, and it happens more often than people care to admit. Sexual violence is rampant in this nation, in our culture, and it has got to stop.
This is a conversation that needs to be had. This is something that we need to address, regardless of whatever religious zealots are telling our school administrations. There needs to be sex ed and it needs to be more comprehensive than “Don’t have sex.” Bodies need to be removed from taboo subjects; sex needs to stop being a taboo subject. How can we move forward if we keep holding ourselves back?
The only answer is: We can’t.